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Aug
21st
Wed
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The Pace of Modern Life

                                                                                      — xkcd, 2013.

Jul
9th
Tue
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There are some people that are so negative they can walk into a dark room and begin to develop.
Les Brown, American motivational speaker, former Ohio politician, You Gotta Be Hungry
Jul
2nd
Tue
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The Trinity of Authoritarianism: surveillance, censorship and propaganda.
Evgeny Morozov, a writer and researcher who studies political and social implications of technology, The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate The World, Penguin, 2011, p. 82-84.
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David Deutsch on Fallibilism


“The fact is, there’s nothing infallible about “direct experience” (…). Indeed, experience is never direct. It is a sort of virtual reality, created by our brains using sketchy and flawed sensory clues, given substance only by fallible expectations, explanations, and interpretations. Those can easily be more mistaken than the testimony of the passing hobo. (…)

This logic of fallibility, discovered and rediscovered from time to time, has had profound salutary effects in the history of ideas. Whenever anything demands blind obedience, its ideology contains a claim of infallibility somewhere; but wherever someone believes seriously enough in that infallibility, they rediscover the need for reason to identify and correctly interpret the infallible source. (…)

[Popper]: [A]ll ‘sources’ are liable to lead us into error at times. And I propose to replace, therefore, the question of the sources of our knowledge by the entirely different question: ‘How can we hope to detect and eliminate error?’ (…)

Popper’s answer is: We can hope to detect and eliminate error if we set up traditions of criticism—substantive criticism, directed at the content of ideas, not their sources, and directed at whether they solve the problems that they purport to solve. Here is another apparent paradox, for a tradition is a set of ideas that stay the same, while criticism is an attempt to change ideas. But there is no contradiction. Our systems of checks and balances are steeped in traditions—such as freedom of speech and of the press, elections, and parliamentary procedures, the values behind concepts of contract and of tort—that survive not because they are deferred to but precisely because they are not: They themselves are continually criticized, and either survive criticism (which allows them to be adopted without deference) or are improved (for example, when the franchise is extended, or slavery abolished). Democracy, in this conception, is not a system for enforcing obedience to the authority of the majority. In the bigger picture, it is a mechanism for promoting the creation of consent, by creating objectively better ideas, by eliminating errors from existing ones.

“Our whole problem,” said the physicist John Wheeler, “is to make the mistakes as fast as possible.” (…) [T]hat only means that whenever possible we should make the mistakes in theory, or in the laboratory; we should “let our theories die in our place,” as Popper put it. (…)

[L]essons can be learned to prevent them from happening again. “We are all alike,” as Popper remarked, “in our infinite ignorance.” And this is a good and hopeful thing, for it allows for a future of unbounded improvement.

Fallibilism, correctly understood, implies the possibility, not the impossibility, of knowledge, because the very concept of error, if taken seriously, implies that truth exists and can be found. The inherent limitation on human reason, that it can never find solid foundations for ideas, does not constitute any sort of limit on the creation of objective knowledge nor, therefore, on progress. The absence of foundation, whether infallible or probable, is no loss to anyone except tyrants and charlatans, because what the rest of us want from ideas is their content, not their provenance. (…)

Indeed, infallibilism and nihilism are twins. Both fail to understand that mistakes are not only inevitable, they are correctable (fallibly). Which is why they both abhor institutions of substantive criticism and error correction, and denigrate rational thought as useless or fraudulent. They both justify the same tyrannies. They both justify each other.” “
Jun
7th
Fri
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Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.
Ayn Rand, Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter (1905-1982), The Fountainhead, Bobbs Merrill,1943, p. 715.
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The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom.
William O. Douglas, served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1898-1980), dissenting, Public utilities Commission v. Pollak, 343 U.S. 451, 467 (1952)
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Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian philosopher of communication theory (1911-1980), The Medium is the Massage 1964, Gingko Press, 2001 p. 12.
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They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type.
— a career U.S. intelligence officer on the U.S. government, in a Washington Post exclusive (June 6, 2013) on how the NSA and FBI is tapping into the central servers of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple.
Jun
5th
Wed
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“The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenalin but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.” “
— attributed to Glenn Gould, Canadian pianist who became one of the best-known and most celebrated classical pianists of the 20th century (1932-1982), in Payzant (1962), cited in Glenn Gould: Music and Mind, p.64
Jun
1st
Sat
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" "There was this American physiologist who was asked if Mary’s bodily ascent from Earth to Heaven was possible. He said,"I wasn’t there; therefore, I’m not positive that it happened or didn’t happen; but of one thing I’m certain: She passed out at 10,000 meters.” “

Edward O. Wilson, American biologist, researcher (sociobiologybiodiversity), theorist (consiliencebiophilia), naturalist (conservationist) and author, Interview with Edward O. Wilson: The Origin of Morals, originally in P. Bethge, J. Grolle, Wir sind ein Schlamassel, Der Spiegel, 8/2013.

See also: ☞ E. O. Wilson on human evolution, altruism and a ‘new Enlightenment’, Lapidarium notes

 

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“Only the understanding of evolution offers a chance to get a real understanding of the human species. We are determined by the interplay between individual and group selection where individual selection is responsible for much of what we call sin, while group selection is responsible for the greater part of virtue. We’re all in constant conflict between self-sacrifice for the group on the one hand and egoism and selfishness on the other. I go so far as to say that all the subjects of humanities, from law to the creative arts are based upon this play of individual versus group selection. (…) And it is very creative and probably the source of our striving, our inventiveness and imagination. It’s that eternal conflict that makes us unique. (…)

Q: (…) [W]ill we reach a higher state of humanity?

Do we really want to improve ourselves? Humans are a very young species, in geologic terms, and that’s probably why we’re such a mess. We’re still living with all this aggression and ability to go to war. But do we really want to change ourselves? We’re right on the edge of an era of being able to actually alter the human genome. But do we want that? Do we want to create a race that’s more rational and free of many of these emotions? My response is no, because the only thing that distinguishes us from super-intelligent robots are our imperfect, sloppy, maybe even dangerous emotions. They are what makes us human.” “

Edward O. Wilson, American biologist, researcher (sociobiologybiodiversity), theorist (consiliencebiophilia), naturalist (conservationist) and author, Interview with Edward O. Wilson: The Origin of Morals, originally in P. Bethge, J. Grolle, Wir sind ein Schlamassel, Der Spiegel, 8/2013. (Photo: Edward O. Wilson in Puerto Rico, NYT)

See also: ☞ E. O. Wilson on human evolution, altruism and a ‘new Enlightenment’, Lapidarium notes

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Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

— Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future.
Horace, Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus (65BC-8BC), Odes 1.11
May
26th
Sun
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To seek for yesterday

Claus Narr (d.1515), the court jester, in reply to the Elector of Saxony Johann Friedrich I, who was lamenting that he had “lost the day”:

Morgen wollen wir alle fleissig suchcn, und den Tag, den du verloren hast, wohl wieder finden.

(Tomorrow we will all diligently seek for the day you have lost, and no doubt we shall find it again).
cited in Wolfgang Bütner in: 627 Historien von Claus Narren, 21, 51 (1572). (Image)
May
2nd
Thu
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All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others.
Douglas Adams, English writer and dramatist (1952-2001), The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time (2002)
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There are some oddities in the perspective with which we see the world. The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.
Douglas Adams, English writer and dramatist (1952-2001), in a Speech at Digital Biota 2, Cambridge, UK, (1998)